* Published on Wednesday, November 16, in the Irish Voice.
Let's all take a very deep breath. Certainly a lot of people in Ireland need to.
The Donald Trump triumph has seen an unprecedented outpouring of disgust, despair and fury from media commentators in Ireland over the past week. This has included predictions that America is doomed, that human rights there have been set back 50 years, that global security is in peril ... and that's just the start of it. It's the end of civilized society, it seems.
Some of the most fraught reaction has come from the more "intellectual" end of the media spectrum here, with several writers almost having nervous breakdowns in print. To these emotionally incontinent scribes all we can say is calm down, it's not going to be that bad.
We're all horrified, but ridiculing Trump and, even worse, patronizing his supporters (they're not "college educated" like us) is not going to get us anywhere.
The media in America are equally aghast, but at least some of them have been trying to figure out how they got it so wrong, instead of just having a whinge-fest. Here, it's simply been an orgy of superiority and derision, with each writer trying to sound more nauseated and outraged than the next.
Of course some of this is understandable. The crude, offensive language used by Trump during the campaign, the name calling, the simplistic slogans (Build the Wall, Lock Her Up, Drain the Swamp, etc.) lowered the election to a depth never before plumbed in a presidential race.
But some of the commentators here who have been most horrified by the Trump victory are now playing the same reductionist game, using simplistic labels instead of a thorough analysis of what was being said.
So they refer to Trump as racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and half a dozen other unacceptable characteristics, often listed in a single sentence. But, despite what he said at various times on the stump, that is a simplistic reduction of what he was trying to articulate.
A big part of the problem with Trump is that, compared to someone like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, he is barely articulate. He expresses himself clumsily in disjointed phrases instead of in polished, nuanced sentences like a skillful politician.
Let's take the two most quoted examples. He thinks Mexicans are rapists and murderers and he wants to ban Muslims, so that makes him a racist twice over, right? Except that is not exactly what he said. He said some Mexicans who get into the U.S. turn out to be criminal -- including rapists and murderers -- and there has been a problem trying to remove them and keep them out, which is true. So he wants to build a wall (in other words have a secure southern border).
He said that banning Muslims from entering the country might be necessary "until we can figure out what the hell is going on," referring to an immigration system that has failed to identify radicalized individuals from a Muslim background who might pose a threat to Americans. The implication is that when the system is brought up to speed, such a ban will no longer be necessary.
It's worth remembering that ISIS have said that they are infiltrating flows of migrants from Syria and elsewhere, and also that various countries in Europe have built fences to control migration. Trump has made it clear that he wants controlled, legal immigration, a view shared by many in Europe.
Does his remarks about Mexicans and Muslims make him guilty of racial profiling? Possibly. But does it prove that he is a full blown racist? Probably not.
The other example, the misogyny accusation, was largely based on his foul-mouthed boasting on a secretly recorded tape from 2005 when he was a TV star. His comments were grossly offensive and he has apologized, saying it was "locker-room talk."
Does it prove that he was then, and still is, a misogynist? Not, it seems, in the view of the 53 percent of white women who voted for him in the election.
No doubt they found it juvenile and disgusting -- and it was -- but they were prepared to let it go because, just like male voters, they felt there were bigger issues to be considered, like jobs and the economy. Plus they may have felt that he was no worse than Bill Clinton or President John F. Kennedy, neither of whom have been condemned for their sexual behavior by the liberal elite in the same way that Trump has.
Where the groping allegations are concerned, so far nothing has been proved. And the allegations relate to unwanted advances and groping, but not violent behavior.
So is he a misogynist? Probably not, even though his Neanderthal, alpha male tendencies (despite the small hands!) are a bit sad in these more enlightened times.
The tone of much of the reaction to the Trump triumph indicates that what is really upsetting commentators both here and in the U.S. is less about racism and misogyny (and the rest of it) and far more about their view of Trump as a boorish bully, a crude manipulator with no finesse, a sleazy chancer with lots of money but no taste. He's not one of us, you see, not with that hair and all that fake marble and gold in that gross apartment he inhabits in Trump Tower.
He may have offended the sensibilities of the liberal elite, who all think he is appalling, but for the people who voted for him these things do not matter. They saw a straight talker with a can-do attitude who was promising to fix what was wrong. And the fact is there is a great deal wrong in parts of America where people either have no jobs or have not had a pay increase in 10 years or more.
The ridiculing of Trump's Make America Great Again slogan missed the point. Clinton’s pathetic response that America Is Great Already was even more evidence to these voters that she was out of touch. America is not so great in places like Detroit, where up to a third of the population has left, most of them middle class, leaving behind those existing on welfare in areas made derelict by drugs and violence.
Clinton’s belittling of Trump's commitment to rebuild the inner cities in places like Detroit was an odd stance for a Democrat to take. And this apparent ignorance of the reality of life for so many ordinary Americans across the Rust Belt, in the steel towns and coal mining areas and other places where jobs had been lost, turned voters there away from her.
One point that most of the commentators here (and in the U.S.) have missed is that some parts of Trump's economic plan are the kind of left-of-center initiatives one would expect from the Labour Party in Britain or the Democrats in the U.S. A trillion dollars is to be spent on upgrading infrastructure -- building roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and so on -- which will give badly needed jobs to blue collar workers across America as well as being money well spent. It's classic Roosevelt New Deal stuff.
Similarly with the promised renegotiation of free trade deals that are sucking jobs out of the U.S. Such deals work well when the countries involved have similar wage levels. When there is a huge gap -- like between Mexico or China and the U.S. -- there are problems.
This has been obvious in the behavior of the many U.S. companies that want to have it both ways. They want to produce in low cost countries like Mexico and then sell at high prices in the U.S., free of tariffs. The ones who lose are ordinary American workers.
In response to the strong desire for change in these depressed areas, what was Clinton’s plan? Right ... I don't know either, except that it was going to be more of the same.
What people wanted was real change that would improve their lives quickly. But instead of offering a drastic plan of action like Trump, all Clinton appeared to be offering was a continuation of the Obama policies.
Obama is cool, clever and an inspiring speaker. It's easy to admire him.
But what has he done? A lot but not enough, was the answer for many Americans.
Yes, the economy is now recovering and jobs are being created in some areas. But many voters simply felt the pace was too slow or the recovery had passed by their towns and cities altogether.
Added to this, of course, was the fact that Clinton, despite all her experience, was a less than inspiring candidate. But President Obama and the Democratic Party are as much to blame for the outcome. After all that ringing talk of hope and change, where was the evidence that things would ever get better in the poorer parts of the country, the areas where the Democrats should be the natural choice?
Why, in God's name, was it left to someone like Trump to come up with a massive spending plan to create jobs? Or a plan to make American corporate tax rates competitive and thereby keep jobs in the U.S. and also get the big American multi-national companies to bring the trillions they are holding overseas back into the country for investment at home? Or a really effective plan to deal with illegal immigration?
In comparison with Clinton, a dignified and decent person with a lifetime of public service, Trump appeared almost like a grotesque sideshow. But he offered solutions, even if the things he said went far beyond a lack of political correctness. He sucked the publicity away from her and gave the impression that as a businessman he could cut through the established order and bring real change.
His success may well be a portent of similar developments in Europe, where there is a growing impatience among voters with the left of centre consensus. There are elections next year in Germany, France and the Netherlands and the political establishment there may also be in for a rude awakening from voters who are tired of being patronized and having their views ignored.
Trump, as you know, is already walking back some of the more extreme positions that his slogans implied. Build the Wall may in the end simply mean more fencing and more effective border control using the latest technology. He has already said that he wants to keep elements of Obamacare in whatever new system replaces it.
And that is just the start of it. His economic plans in the end may position him as a centrist, a considerable distance from the far right of the Republican party.
Those economic plans will pose great difficulties for Ireland, which is hugely dependent on the big American companies who have set up here. If Trump presses ahead quickly to cut corporate tax rates and bring jobs back to the U.S. we will be hit much harder than other European countries.
Coupled with the Brexit effect, this country is facing a huge challenge. We can appeal to Trump's better nature (if we can find it) and we can bring him an even bigger bowl of shamrock next St. Patrick's Day. But it may make no difference.
He will, as he has said, put America first. That's why he got elected.